Josie Ledesma -- #94938-012

Life in Prison -- Cocaine Conspiracy

I am a 38-year-old Mexican-American woman serving two natural life sentences for cocaine related charges. I have been married for 18 years and have three children, Julio, 17; Lizette, 15; and Danny, 12. I will soon be a grandmother. I was 33 years old when I began serving this sentence in October of 1992.

Prior to my arrest, I worked four years for the San Bernardino California School District as a bilingual teacher's aide for an abused children's program. I had no criminal record, and am considered a first-time offender. I was never arrested or observed doing anything illegal related to the charges I have been convicted of. I feel that I was selectively prosecuted because I could not provide the DEA with the whereabouts of two family members that were wanted for alleged illegal drug activities.

I was released on bond for one year pending trial. I returned to court thinking that I would go home free, believing that our judicial system was just. Instead, my experience has led me to believe that it doesn't matter to the courts whether you are guilty or not. The prosecution is only concerned with obtaining convictions, and will offer you all kinds of "deals" to satisfy their wishes.

Approximately 18 months ago I was visited in prison by FBI agents and offered a recommendation to my sentencing judge for a sentence reduction in exchange for my testimony against someone else's alleged illegal activities. I had no knowledge of any illegal activities on the part of this individual and was not willing to lie for the prosecution.

After four years of dealing with the pain of separation from my loved ones, I still pray to God every day to give me the strength and courage to continue on until justice is finally served.